There’s Mississippi State Heartbreak, Then There’s Alabama


Let’s face it, being a Mississippi State fan is never easy.  Sports history at Mississippi State is interesting and success, while sparse, can be found.  From a Final Four appearance in basketball, to multiple College World Series appearances in baseball and even to the SEC Championship game in football – there is success, but also heartbreak.

Yes Mississippi State made the Final Four, but flubbed the dub against Syracuse.   Yes Mississippi State has made the College World Series nine times, but choked away a national championship just last year to UCLA.

Yes Mississippi State made it to the SEC Championship Game in football back in 1998, but allowed then Number-1 Tennessee to come from behind to win with under six minutes left.

Mississippi State has seen its fair share of sports success, but not without immense disappointment to follow.

The Bulldogs enter week 12 of the 2014 college football season on another magical Bulldog sports run.  9-0, number-one in the country going on four weeks now and again a chance to grab success by the horns.

While every Bulldog fan has enjoyed this magical season thus far, many like myself have been looking down the schedule, glaring at this week for a while now.  Why?  Because we know about Bulldog heartbreak and then there’s Alabama heartbreak for Bulldog Nation.

Eighty-two miles separates the University of Alabama and Mississippi State University.  They are the closest institutions within the SEC and their football pasts could not be more different.

Alabama has 15-National Championships, while the Bulldogs have none.  Bama has 27-Southeastern Conference Championships while the Bulldogs have one.

Alabama has one Heisman Trophy winner and has had 12-top five finishers for the award, while the Bulldogs celebrate their first legitimate Heisman candidate just this year.

Alabama’s greatest football coach (Paul “Bear” Bryant) has statues, apparel and more dedicated to his name and some even name their children and pets after him.  Mississippi State’s all-time winningest coach (Jackie Sherrill) played under – Bear Bryant.

No other two schools in the country could be so closer in proximity and yet so further away when talking about football history and success.

For decades people in Starkville have always had a cordial relationship with those in Tuscaloosa, but look just across the border and wonder why can’t that be us?

Mississippi State trails Alabama in their all-time football series 18-77-3 and while the Bulldogs have had some success against the Tide, it’s been rare.  Obviously 1980 will always stand the test of time for Bulldog fans, as will a 17-16 win in 1996.  The Bulldogs did beat the Tide from 1996-98, but Alabama was a shell of itself.

But – when the Bulldogs have really needed a win to propel their program to that “next level”, there stands Alabama in the way and every time, the Tide have sent the Bulldogs crumbling back down to earth.

It truly is a big brother, little brother story where there is no true hatred between the two, there is love there, but big brother has never let little brother get too far along without a reminder of who’s in charge.

Former Mississippi State head coach Jackie Sherrill saw his 8-0 Bulldogs drop a 19-7 decision to Alabama in Tuscaloosa in 1999. Courtesy of the Montgomery advertiser

In 1999 Jackie Sherrill’s Mississippi State Bulldogs started off 8-0 and was one win away from repeating as Western Division Champions.  The Bulldogs were ranked 8th in the BCS Standings and many considered them a dark horse for the National Championship that year.  All they had to do was travel 82-miles to Alabama and beat the Tide; something they had done the previous two years.

Mike Dubose’s Alabama team was 7-2 that year with losses to Louisiana Tech (29-28) and Tennessee.  Both teams controlled their own destiny that day, but it was Alabama and Starkville’s only son – Freddie Milions who had the last laugh, 19-7 over the Bulldogs.

Alabama went on to defeat Auburn the next week to win the west and defeated Florida for the SEC Championship, while the Bulldogs finished 10-2.  State had a great year, but Alabama showed they were just a little better.

In 2012 Dan Mullen’s Mississippi State team traveled to Tuscaloosa to take on Nick Saban’s Alabama team and the Bulldogs were 7-0 and pronounced “We Believe”.  It took about ten minutes to realize Bryant-Denny had swallowed the Bulldogs again and their dreams, as the Tide defeated Mississippi State 38-7.

So here we are, on the 100th year of celebration of Scott Field at Davis Wade Stadium – a year that has seen the Bulldogs come from the unranked to the number-one team in the country.  A year where the Bulldogs are now again ONE big win away from all but locking up the Western Division Crown, playing for the Southeastern Conference Championship and a National Championship in football, and as you look across the field – there’s Alabama.

If there were really football gods you would believe they set this in motion long ago and have to be giggling, almost as to say, “hey let’s make this thing to where every time Mississippi State looks like they have arrived on the national scene, they not only have to beat football’s most historic program, they need to do it on the road.”

Dan Mullen has answered the call to his critics about his football team in year six, accomplishing things that have rarely been done in Starkville; beating LSU in Tiger Stadium for the first time in decades, finally getting over the hump against Gus Malzahn at Auburn and defeating three top ten teams in a row.

College Gameday has come to Starkville for the very first time, along with multiple SEC Nation visits, quarterback Dak Prescott is the Heisman front-runner and the Bulldogs are the only team to ever be called number one (up to this point) in the new college football playoff.

For most teams in other conferences that would be enough good fortune, or as much fortune as you would need as your season would be one of a dream and you would be looking at a chance to finish it off with a National Championship, but not Mississippi State.

Oct 18, 2014; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; A general view of Bryant-Denny Stadium during the game between Alabama and Texas A&M. The Crimson Tide defeated the Aggies 59-0. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

They now have to get on a bus, travel Highway 82, 82-miles and walk into College Football’s mecca.

They have to strap it on one more time, on a field where legends live and other great Bulldog teams have gone on to parish.

Mississippi State will walk onto the turf at Bryant Denny Stadium carrying 100-years of football frustration and heartbreak on their shoulders, hoping this is their day, this is their time and this is their moment.

Dan Mullen has taken the Bulldogs to new heights in 2014, accomplishing more than any Bulldog football team before him so it makes sense that he must now go do something that even Jackie Sherrill couldn’t do – beat Alabama on their home field in a high stakes game.  It makes sense Dak Prescott must go beat Alabama at their place to win the Heisman. In the words of legendary wrestler Rick Flair, “To be the man, you have to go beat the man.”

We will find out Saturday if things really happen in three’s or if third times a charm for Mississippi State.  The Bulldogs will be in their third pressure cooker game in Tuscaloosa in the last 15-years and they are 0-2 thus far.

Dan Mullen has talked about championships since day one at Mississippi State, now he has the chance to go get one. Dan Mullen has a chance to slay the beast that is Alabama and wash away all the heartache the Tide has caused the Bulldogs all these years.

Dan Mullen has a chance to do what no other team at Mississippi State has ever done, but he must go beat big brother, he must avoid the worst Mississippi State heartbreak of all – The University of Alabama.